The city of Mobile is parting ways with a company that has been monitoring Mobile’s stormwater program for 16 years, and also looking to take the process in-house within five years.
During the Jan. 14 City Council meeting, a contract between the city and Payne Environmental Services was unanimously approved. The $366,650 contract makes Payne responsible for monitoring the city’s stormwater runoff and then compiling an annual report of the findings for the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.
This marks the first time since 1998 that Mobile is not using V.J. Reddy’s Mobile Group, Inc. for stormwater management. Beginning in February 2012, while under contract with Mobile Group, the city received a host of fines and even a lawsuit from ADEM. The suit was the first time the agency has litigated against a municipality for violation of stormwater runoff regulations.
In February 2012, ADEM fined the city $17,750 for not submitting a report for 2008-2009. Then ADEM cited the city for failing to submit a report for 2007 and 2009. The later violation, coupled with other citations, is what led ADEM to sue the city.
ADEM is now asking the Mobile County Circuit Court to fine Mobile $475,000. This will be decided before Mobile Circuit Court Judge Ben Brooks during a Feb. 7 hearing.
That coupled with a nearly $500,000 contract with Mobile Group, Inc. led the city to look elsewhere. Payne’s contract is roughly $134,000 less than what the city has been paying Mobile Group — a 26 percent reduction.
“Payne has a history of success with Mobile County since 2005 and the city of Prichard for five years,” Mayor Sandy Stimpson said. “When we met with six employees, we told them failure is not an option. We also made sure they understood the scope of work that Mobile Group was dealing with. They assured us that they could handle it.”
Payne Environmental Services will be under contract until February 2015 and will do everything Mobile Group did and also prepare city employees to take the stormwater monitoring in-house.
“Over a number of years — hopefully between three and five years — stormwater will be in-house, which will cost much less,” Stimpson said. “Payne will be working to train employees and as the years go they will be doing less and less.”
Casey McCorquodale, Payne Environmental Services business development director, said the company is ready to work with the city and explained the three-step process.
“First Payne is going to assess the current situation. Secondly we are going to implement any changes needed and begin training employees,” she said. “Lastly, before or on Jan. 31, 2015, we will submit the annual report to ADEM.”
There are two more important steps for the city of Mobile and Payne Environmental Services. The first is a meeting on Jan. 22 in Montgomery among Stimpson, Payne Environmental Services and ADEM Director Lance LeFleur.
Stimpson said LeFleur is looking at what the city is doing to become compliant with ADEM regulations.
Feb. 7 marks the next big step for Payne and the city. That’s when the city will be in circuit court fighting the lawsuit against ADEM.
McCorquodale said one of the company’s major focal points is to first get the city ready to move forward in its stormwater management.
“One of the main concerns is to remedy the past issues and bring the city into compliance,” she said. “The next is to get the employees ready to bring this in-house.”
Payne Environmental Services almost worked with the city once before, but an odd turn of events kept them from being selected.
In 2007, Public Services Executive Director John Bell issued two separate requests for quotes (RFQ) on the same day for overseeing the city’s stormwater management plan to two different firms — Mobile Group, Inc. and Payne Environmental Services, according to City Council meeting minutes.
When the requests came back, he recommended approval of a contract with Mobile Group, which would have been for $250,000. However, Randle Payne, Payne Environmental Services vice president, was present for the City Council meeting and questioned why his contract was not being recommended, as it would have cost the city just $175,000 to do the same work.
According to council records, the paperwork was reviewed and it turned out different RFQs went to the companies. Mobile Group’s RFQ called for an additional matrix while Payne Environmental Services’ RFQ did not.
Bell said it was because of the lack of the matrix that he disqualified Payne Environmental Services and recommended the city go with the more expensive Mobile Group.
The council failed to approve the contract, but Mobile Group continued doing the work for several years without contract, according to city records.
Bell eventually reported Payne Environmental Services for supplanting a contract to the state Engineering Board, alleging that Payne had tried to win the contract from another engineering firm through underhanded methods. The board ended up issuing no ruling on the complaint, but ordered both parties to drop the matter.
Due to the board’s decision, Payne could not speak with Lagniappe when contacted about the 2007 incident.
Now Payne Environmental Services and Bell will work together on monitoring the city’s stormwater.